Bernier & Fahlberg Talk First Step Shelter

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Marc Bernier with First Step Shelter Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg
(News Daytona Beach)

Daytona Beach, FL - In about a month, Daytona Beach's newest homeless shelter will host its grand opening.

But, before then, WNDB host and political analyst Marc Bernier sits with First Step Shelter's Executive Director, Victoria Fahlberg, to talk more about the facility and what's to come before it's opening on December 11th.

Fahlberg, who hasn't run a shelter before, has experience in operating non-profit organizations and counseling. She told Bernier that she originally started counseling victims of child sex abuse and domestic violence, two fields that unfortunately sometimes link together, according to Fahlberg.

On top of her job as executive director, Fahlberg will also be responsible for helping raise funds for the shelter.

Bernier: That's a big job. I mean, having been a grant writer you know something about how to raise money. But, wow. Running the place and putting the hand out to get people to support, that's a big job.

Fahlberg: Yeah I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a challenge.

Bernier: Do you have any help or are you going to be a one-man-band?

Fahlberg: I'm going to be a one-man-band.

Even though it seems like the task was completely left up to Fahlberg, she says that there is a partner who will help oversee the day-to-day operations of the shelter. In turn, she will oversee the work of that partner.

Shelter Qualifications & Affordable Housing

Still fresh into their interview, Bernier asked Fahlberg if First Step Shelter will have any kind of prerequisite or qualifications people have to meet before being admitted into the shelter.

The answer, according to Fahlberg, is no.

While the shelter will be first come, first served, Fahlberg says the shelter is for people who want to "stabilize their life" and eventually move into permanent affordable housing.

The topic of affordable housing has come up previously in relation to the shelter. Last month, Daytona Beach Mayor and First Step Shelter Board President Derrick Henry spoke on the Marc Bernier Show and spoke about a proposed affordable apartment complex in Daytona Beach.

Henry says that the project will be an 82-unit, four-story complex built off of Orange Avenue and Dr. MLK Jr. Boulevard, with a mix of two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartment layouts. Rent would range from $400 a month to $800 a month.

It was last approved by a narrow margin in the Daytona Beach City Commission chambers with a 4-3 vote from city leaders.

The Safe Zone

Another hot button topic often brought up alongside the new shelter is what the board calls a "safe zone." Oftentimes, people ask what it is and what it's for.

Fahlberg says the safe zone is a dedicated area outside of the shelter that law enforcement can use to drop off homeless people. There, they are given the choice of either spending the night in the safe zone or spending the night in jail.

The issue of the safe zone was brought up recently to the Daytona Beach City Commission. The problem wasn't so much where the safe zone would be located, but where people would go once the night was over.

The fear from one commissioner, Robert Gilliland, is that they could end up staying in Daytona Beach, increasing the city's homeless count. Henry said that wouldn't be a problem. And, if it were to become a problem, it could be taken out as easily as it was implemented.

But, even implementing the safe zone seemed to be a bit of a task. The safe zone was initially shot down by the First Step Shelter Board, not because of its location or operation, but because of the $425,000 it was originally going to cost to run it annually.

Following its debate with the Daytona Beach City Commission, city leaders left it up to the shelter's board to decide if the safe zone were to stay in place. Fahlberg told Bernier that it was approved at their latest meeting last Wednesday (November 6th).

Shelter Security

A decision hasn't been made yet, but Fahlberg says the Daytona Beach Police Department might be the security provider for the shelter.

According to Fahlberg, the First Step Shelter is in the process of working on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Daytona police. A lieutenant with the DBPD has so far served as a liaison between the two parties.

"The details of how that will work out on a day-to-day basis is still being determined," said Fahlberg. "But, yes. We do have the MOU in the works."

Marc Bernier can be heard live on FM 93.5 and AM 1150 WNDB, Monday through Friday, 6-9 a.m. with Chuck Bennett on Bennett & Bernier, and 3-6 p.m. on the Marc Bernier Show. You can also find archived interviews and audio on his website, MarcBernierShow.com

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